by Pablo Ros | May 24, 2013
California’s budget crisis has decimated its court system in the last several years. Cuts of more than 30 percent have left courts across the state and particularly in Los Angeles County understaffed and unable to meet the legal needs of citizens.
With more cuts proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown, court employees and residents are voicing concerns that the wheels of justice may be grinding to a halt.
“Judicial services have been cut to the bone,” said Sharis Peters, a family law mediator in Los Angeles Superior Court and member of AFSCME Local 276 who spoke recently at a town hall meeting to demand that Governor Brown restore funding to the court system. “Residents are being forced to wait much longer to have their issues resolved in court. A father who files for help in a custody matter may have to wait six months or more before he has an initial court hearing.”
Gwendolyn Jones, a Los Angeles Superior Court Clerk and president of AFSCME Local 575, warned that as court hearings are moved from local courthouses to just a few designated courts throughout the state – in a process called “hubbing” – the public will be forced into increasingly overcrowded and understaffed clerks’ offices.
“The state’s court budget cutbacks and hubbing are in effect violating citizens’ fundamental right to justice,” she said. “It will only get worse from here.”
California’s Chief Justice, Tani Cantil-Sakauye, also protested the cuts, saying courts are unable to “provide fundamental services or protect the rights of Californians,” and that, “By marginalizing the courts, California strikes a blow against justice.”
Yet despite the dire circumstances, the state’s courts this year are asked to trim another $350 million from their budgets, making it practically impossible to offer fair and timely justice to citizens on cases that will affect everyone. In fact, further layoffs will mean more than half of civil courtrooms will be shut down permanently; civil cases such as divorce proceedings and lawsuits will take more than four years to wrap up; and delays in hearings will mean children in foster care will be left separated from parents for longer periods of time.
These are just some of the awful consequences. That’s why AFSCME stands with our sisters and brothers in California to demand an end to cuts and layoffs in the court system.
by Kate Childs Graham | May 24, 2013
Trailblazing activists Viola Liuzzo, Annie Clemenc and Evelyn Dubrow were posthumously honored and inducted into the International Labor Hall of Fame this month.
The women each lived lives of incredible courage to advance the American labor and civil rights movements. Viola Liuzzo traveled to Alabama to join the growing Civil Rights Movement after seeing the events of “Bloody Sunday” unravel on March 7, 1965. Weeks later, while driving fellow activists home from a rally, she was shot and killed by members of the Ku Klux Klan. She was only 39.
“Big Annie” Clemenc was a leader in the 1913 strikes protesting the mistreatment of mine workers on the Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan. She was arrested and imprisoned twice for her actions. She also founded the Women’s Auxiliary No. 15 of the Western Federation of Miners.
Evelyn “Evy” Dubrow was a lobbyist for the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union. She was famous for visiting dozens of senators in one day, fighting on behalf of working people everywhere. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1999.
Past inductees to the International Labor Hall of Fame include Harry Truman, Franklin Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt, and former AFSCME Presidents Arnold Zander and Jerry Wurf.
AFSCME remains committed to developing women leaders at every level of the union. Visit afscme.org/women for more information.
by Malcolm Maurice | May 24, 2013
A new video series from the Center for American Progress aims to highlight the importance of union representation for working families by telling the personal stories of workers for whom union membership has made a very real difference. Among those featured in the “Unions Make the Middle Class” series is La Tonya Johnson, an AFSCME child care worker in Milwaukee who was one of the thousands of union workers affected when Gov. Scott Walker pushed through the law to eliminate most union rights for government workers in 2011.
“Right after our union was repealed, we lost our weekly pay,” said Johnson, owner of an in-home licensed child care center. “For people who think that having a union or being organized doesn’t have a bottom line effect, I’m here to tell you that it does.”
Johnson was inspired to run for office to continue the fight to restore workers’ right to organize and collectively bargain in the state. Her message resonated with voters and she won a resounding 19-point victory in a four-way primary contest in August 2012. Johnson is currently representing the 17th District in the Wisconsin State Assembly and has pledged to vote in favor of restoring all collective bargaining rights.
“Being in a union is so important to the working class because it protects the rights of the working class,” she said. “It gives you a voice.”
Watch all the videos from the series on ThinkProgress.
by Kate Childs Graham | May 23, 2013
A high-energy program focusing on the vital role that young people play in AFSCME will bring together 35-and-under members from across the country for the 2013 AFSCME Next Wave Conference in Detroit, Mich. After Gov. Rick Snyder rammed through a right-to-work (for-less) bill and robbed communities of their democratic rights with his Local Dictator Law, Michigan has become ground zero for attacks on workers.
From July 12 - 14, young, fired-up activists will exchange strategies at a series of workshops on issues ranging from cutting-edge digital media tactics to best bargaining practices, all with the goal of better fighting the attacks we face from anti-worker politicians across the country.
Attendees will hear from AFSCME leaders, including Pres. Lee Saunders and Sec.-Treas. Laura Reyes. Key allies will be on hand to discuss best practices of partnerships. Direct action experts will share their compelling stories and insights. A dynamic, new open space portion of the conference will provide participants with the opportunity to present and hear about issues important to them. And, of course, Next Wavers will once again share their gifts at Open Mic Night.
View highlights from the 2011 Next Wave Conference in Atlanta, Ga., here.
Click here to find out more and register.
by Pablo Ros and Kevin Brown | May 22, 2013
LOS ANGELES – California state and local officials came out yesterday in support of University of California patient care workers who are on strike to demand from UC hospital executives that they put patients before profits.
Among the state Assembly members who showed their support for members of AFSCME Local 3299 were Roger Dickinson (7th District), Das Williams (37th District) and Richard Pan (9th District), who is the chair of the Assembly Health Committee. Sacramento Councilmember Darrell Fong also joined the protesters, as did students of the University of California Los Angeles. The strike was held in five locations throughout the state – Los Angeles, Irvine, San Diego, San Francisco and Davis.
AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders, who traveled to California to join the rally yesterday, will again address participants at UC San Francisco and UC Davis.
Media coverage of yesterday’s strike included appearances in more than 70 news segments.
Since AFSCME Local 3299 began negotiations more than 10 months ago, UC administrators have been unwilling to come to the table with a workable proposal. The two-day strike was supported by 97 percent of members. Before the walkout, Local 3299 took measures to ensure that patient care needs will be met.
You can still sign this petition to show solidarity with our sisters and brothers in California.
by Pablo Ros and Kevin Brown | May 21, 2013
LOS ANGELES – Thousands of University of California patient care workers went on strike today in five locations throughout the state, chanting: “What’s this about? Patient care!” and “All day, all night – safe staffing is our fight.”
The members of AFSCME Local 3299 – the nurses, surgical and X-ray technicians, custodians, servers, cooks and others that keep one of the largest medical systems in the country running – began a two-day strike to demand from hospital executives that they put patients before profits.
“This strike is about standing up for students, patients and taxpayers the UC Medical System was intended to serve,” said Local 3299 Pres. Kathryn Lybarger, also an AFSCME International vice president. “UC’s increasingly unsafe staffing practices and growing culture of executive entitlement are undermining patient care quality and unnecessarily putting lives at risk.”
Executive compensation at UC Medical is up by $100 million since 2009 and executives are taking lifetime pensions of up to $300,000 a year, all while compromising on safe staffing levels. They are forcing workers to do more with less and placing the burden of sacrifice on those who make less than $30,000 a year.
This has led to unsanitary operating tables, broken equipment, chronic understaffing and deteriorating hospital conditions that put patients in harm’s way.
For nearly a year, the University of California medical system has refused to negotiate reasonable safe staffing, retirement security and fair wage proposals. In spite of hundreds of millions in annual profits, administrators want to cut pensions and slash retiree health care.
AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders, who joined the strike rally, reminded the patient care workers that “we all stand in solidarity” with them. “This is no way to run one of the best university health systems in the nation,” Saunders said. “This is no way to treat patients. And this is no way to treat you!”
He also called on UC to “bargain in good faith with its workers,” adding, “We call on UC to make patients Number 1. We call on UC to respect the people who keep the doors open and to respect the patients who come through those doors!”
Since Local 3299 began negotiations more than 10 months ago, UC administrators have been unwilling to come to the table with a workable proposal. Today’s actions follow a nearly unanimous vote, in which 97 percent of members supported going on strike. Before the walkout, Local 3299 took measures to ensure that patient care needs will be met.
Please help our sisters and brothers in the UC medical system and show solidarity by signing this petition. After you sign the petition, call the CEOs of UC Medical Centers and tell them you support AFSCME members out on strike. Tell them: “It’s time to curb exorbitant UC executive entitlements, and put patients before profits.”
The chief executive officers are:
- Mark Laret, UC San Francisco Medical Center – (415) 353-2733
- David Feinberg, UCLA Medical Center – (310) 267-9315
- Terry Belmont, UC Irvine Medical Center – (714) 456-6240
- Ann Madden Rice, UC Davis Medical Center – (916) 734-0751
- Paul Viviano, UC San Diego Medical Center – (619) 543-6654
by Kate Childs Graham | May 20, 2013
The Senate is now considering a comprehensive immigration reform bill that includes a path to citizenship for aspiring Americans – as well as accelerated paths for farmworkers and college students known as DREAMers – but lawmakers are filing a slew of amendments that threaten to clutter or entirely block that path.
That’s why this week, AFSCME joined hundreds of unions and community organizations in urging members of the Senate Judiciary Committee not only protect, but expand the path to citizenship proposed in the bill. A path to citizenship would add at least $832 billion to our economy over 10 years, according to the Center for American Progress. It would stabilize our workforce and strengthen our national security.
There are some positive amendments proposed for the bipartisan Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (S. 744). They allow for:
- The youngest DREAMers, who are still in college, to apply for Lawful Permanent Resident status under the same rules as someone who has already graduated from college
- Individuals to pay required fees for citizenship on an installment basis
- Changing some important timelines, helping more recent immigrants access the path to citizenship
But troubling amendments do the following:
- Bar any formerly-undocumented immigrant from obtaining U.S. citizenship
- Bar people with very minor criminal offenses from obtaining citizenship
- Require anyone on the path to citizenship to maintain an income four times over the poverty line ($90,000 for a family of four) for the entire 10 years that they’re on the path. It’s a ridiculously high bar that few if any would stand a chance of meeting.
The stronger and more expansive that path is, the stronger our country will be. Learn more about recent May Day actions AFSCME members nationwide participated in, calling for comprehensive immigration reform.
by Clyde Weiss | May 20, 2013
Approximately 11,000 family child care providers in Minnesota today won a historic legislative victory in their years-long campaign to win collective bargaining rights when the House voted to approve landmark legislation allowing them to have their own union.
The House action followed last week’s Senate vote for the bill. Gov. Mark Dayton vowed to sign the legislation if it reached his desk.
St. Paul child care provider Lisa Thompson, president of Child Care Providers Together, a unit of AFSCME Council 5, applauded the lawmakers who supported the bill. “A union is something our profession needs,” she said. “We are businesswomen who know that a union will give us many benefits, such as access to training, the ability to collectively bargain for better reimbursement rates and a legal voice at the table.”
The bill gives licensed and unlicensed in-home child care providers (who care for children who receive state subsidies) the right to be represented by a union. These providers – who receive state subsidies to care for children from low-income families – want to organize with AFSCME’s Child Care Providers Together, but an election is required before the union can act on their behalf.
The bill also would also allow personal care attendants who work directly for a person they care for, such as an elderly or disabled relative, to organize a union, under the same requirements set for child care providers. The attendants are seeking representation through the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Together, 21,000 workers in Minnesota can gain representation through a union.
Minnesota’s child care providers have been organizing with AFSCME Council 5 since 2011. That year, more than 4,300 licensed, in-home child care providers won the right to gain union representation when Governor Dayton signed an executive order. But two days before they would have begun to cast their votes to unionize, a St. Paul judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking the election. This year, Sen. Sandra Pappas and Rep. Michael Nelson introduced the new collective bargaining bill approved by the Senate this week.
“Everyone wins when we come together and work together to improve our lives and profession,” said Lynn Barten, a child care provider in Alexandria, Minn., who is also hoping to form a union with Child Care Providers Together. “It’s time to help Minnesota’s family child care providers do the same. Providers already do a great job taking care of our children, but a union will give us access to more training so we can do our jobs even better.”
by Kate Childs Graham | May 17, 2013
Philadelphia, Pa., has joined a growing group of cities – including Portland, Ore., San Francisco, Calif., and Seattle, Wash. – to provide inclusive health care coverage for transgender city workers, thanks to the advocacy of DC 47 member Kathy Padilla.
Padilla, a city worker herself, has been advocating for transgender health care coverage for nearly a decade. She had countless conversations with legislators. She garnered community support. She did hours of research. She asked political candidates to respond to the issue.
In 2002, she and others successfully passed the Fair Practices Ordinance that banned discrimination based on gender identity. But still transgender employees didn’t have equal access to health care and were denied services ranging from mammograms to gender reassignment surgery.
“Having an exclusion in health care is discrimination of a protected class,” Padilla noted.
Last week, Padilla’s work paid off, when City Councilman Jim Kenney’s LGBT Equality Bill was signed into law. The bill offers tax credits to support life partner and transgender health benefits in the private sector and removes anti-transgender discrimination from the city employee health plan, making Philadelphia the largest city to remove transgender health care discrimination from its work force.
“As a city employee, I’m relieved to no longer have to worry over being denied care for necessary services like mammograms or, God forbid, treatment for breast cancer that are routinely denied to trans people,” Padilla said.
Padilla, 56, has not had a mammogram in 16 years.
She continued, “The city loses money when transgender people are denied mammograms or pelvic exams and early treatment doesn’t occur.”
A 2012 report from AFSCME and Center for American Progress also found that cities – and subsequently, taxpayers – lose money when discrimination in the workplace or in health care boosts costly turnover and increases the likelihood of expensive lawsuits.
Padilla is working with her union leaders, who supported the legislation, to ensure that insurance carriers in Philadelphia include this coverage on a non-discriminatory basis for every city worker in Philadelphia.
by Kate Childs Graham | May 16, 2013
One in five Californians speak English less than “very well.” During the next five years, with the implementation of health care reform, more than 3 million Californians will require language assistance in health care. By state and federal law, these Californians must have access to translating services. And yet, the state does not yet have a clear plan for how a rapidly growing number of patients will access the care to which they are entitled and need.
To help and encourage legislators to develop that plan, AFSCME leaders have organized a new group called Interpreting for California. Members are pushing for a larger, well-trained interpreter work force. They are also working with Assembly Speaker John Perez to pass a bill, which requires the state Department of Health Care Services to apply for federal matching funds to create a state-certified pool of interpreters.
“Quality, in-person medical interpretation saves lives. We are leading the way with interpreters and the community to make sure all Californians can communicate with their doctor and get the care they need,” says Doug Moore, Executive Director of UDW Homecare Providers/AFSCME Local 3930 and an AFSCME International vice president.
Interpreting for California has also held community forums, like the one seen in this video, where local community members can share their personal stories.
Lack of proper interpretation in a health care setting can have dire, even fatal consequences. AFSCME interpreters in California, Washington and across the country are working hard to make sure that their communities speak the language of care.